In recent years lists have become all the rage in American culture (Best Dressed, Top Plays, Best/Worst Places to Live, Sexiest Insurance Executives, etc.) so it seems only fitting that we at Colby should join the mix and offer a few lists of our own. There is already one Dean's List of which you are likely aware. It's the one to which top academic performers are named at the end of each semester. It's a good list and one you want to try to make (at Colby the students taking at least 15 credits who earn a term GPA that is in the top 30% for that semester make the Dean's List). But that's not what these lists are about.
Below are a couple of lists of some of the best and worst habits and practices of Colby students. I have developed these lists over several years through painstaking research and exacting analysis of the data collected. You will note that these lists are labeled as SOME of the best and worst, etc. That is because while I have no doubt as to the credibility of the lists - the "Bests" really are good, and the "Worsts" really are bad - I cannot say that the lists are either definitive or exhaustive. In other words, there are other good and bad things that one can do but they just aren't on the lists. Anyway, here they are.
There are many good reasons why students choose Colby but the intimate academic setting and small student to faculty ratio are rightly among the most important. Obviously, in those instances when you might be struggling in a class or not fully understanding an assignment, the ability to go and speak with your professor is a tremendous asset. But the truth is that getting to know your professors and talking with them privately about course material is always a good thing that will enhance both your understanding of the class and the quality of your experience at Colby. For some taking that first step of initiating a conversation with a professor can be intimidating. But you need to know that the ability to get to know students is an important factor for why faculty choose to teach at a place like Colby just as it is for students. So go for it. You won't regret it.
I already mentioned the importance of making the effort to talk with your professors outside of class and in other materials you have received we have urged you to get to know your advisor and your advising dean. Likewise, you should take the time to stop into Campus Life, the Health Center, the Career Center, the Mail Room, etc. and introduce yourself to the people who work in the offices and departments around campus. Also, you should take the time to find and meet the custodian who works in your residence hall and the people who work in the dining halls and on the Physical Plant Department (PPD) staff who take care of the campus and plow the snow, etc. All the people at Colby care about students and you will benefit from taking the time to get to know them.
I know that many of you are well-practiced at living by a busy schedule and that's probably a good thing. But if you're like most of the students I know your schedule tends only to include the formal commitments you have - school/classes, practices/rehearsals/club meetings, and major personal/social commitments (dentist appointments, the prom, cousin Edna's wedding, etc.). One of the biggest adjustments to college is getting used to how much unstructured time you have (even if you're really busy). Unlike secondary school, you are completely on your own whenever you are not in class and since most classes only meet three hours a week (language classes may meet every day and labs will add class time, but still...) so even if you are on an athletic team or in a performing group or other activity with extensive time commitments, that means you have a lot of unaccounted for time. You may find, as most do, that if you don't pay attention to how you use your unaccounted for time it is really easy to waste a lot of it. So one of the best things that students do is to make a fully detailed schedule that includes study time, meal time, sleep time, and hanging out time. Yeah, it can seem pretty type A to plan your day down to brushing and flossing, but those who are disciplined about planning and sticking to a schedule tend to have more (and more enjoyable) free time.
Maybe it will be a nook in the library, or an empty classroom in Lovejoy, or the third floor study lounge in your residence hall that no one else ever seems to use. Wherever, find a place where you go to study and then go there every day. Many students arrive at Colby having used their bedrooms at home as their primary study space so they think that their residence hall room will serve that purpose for them here. For some, but very few, dorm rooms will work as study space.
But for most they will not. Let's face it, residence hall rooms are terrible places to study. There are distractions galore all around you. TV's, computers, video gaming systems, music (both recorded and whatever guitars, keyboards, harmonicas, etc. that are in close proximity), and of course, anywhere from 10-50 of your new best friends just down the hall or upstairs just waiting for you to pop in and fritter away two hours of time that you planned to be studying. So find a place that is quiet and away from distractions where you can put in your study time and then go hang out with your friends who should be studying but didn't take my advice to find a quiet place to do it.
Coming to know yourself and what you think and where you fit in the world are central elements of your Colby experience. And gaining that sense of self-knowledge and awareness requires time to reflect on the things you are learning and just to be with your own thoughts. The ability to be connected with friends and to the limitless store of information that modern technology affords us is wonderful in many ways, but it is also at odds with the practice of quiet contemplation. You cannot learn to be alone or to understand what you think if you don't make time just to be with yourself and with your thoughts. There is plenty of time for talking and texting and tweeting and Facebooking. Make sure you make time for thinking too.
Yup. It's pretty much what your parents and kindergarten teachers told you. Doing the things that will help you stay healthy and fit are key to getting the most out of your Colby time. Okay, it seems obvious so why do I bother putting it on the list? Well, as obvious as it seems, it's actually pretty hard to do. The prevailing forces of college life tend to work against eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. Dorm living is conducive to staying up until all hours talking with friends, eating pizza and Doritos six days a week, and playing Madden 2012 instead of touch football. Look all those things are part of college life (except some prefer War Craft to Madden) and that's okay. But the habits you make will shape the overall quality of your experience so if you can successfully make those things the exceptions and the eating, sleeping, and exercising the rules then you will be much happier in the long run.
There are lots of ways to be part of the local community. By all means, doing community service through the Colby Volunteer Center or as part of Colby Cares About Kids are great things to do and you will be glad you did if you get involved. But there are also other things you can and should do to be involved in the community. Go to the farmers' market downtown on Thursdays in the fall and spring. Go to Selah Tea or Jorgensen's or any of the other local eateries and get to know the people who live here. Read the local paper, pay attention to politics, run or walk or ride your bike in the local neighborhoods. You get four years to be here. Take advantage in every way you can imagine.
Okay, everyone does it sometimes. You're out of clean socks but you just can't get motivated to deal with the laundry room so you recycle the socks you wore the day before and promise yourself you'll do the washing tomorrow. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about looking at the syllabus for your history class, seeing that the first mid-term isn't until October 12 and the first paper isn't due until November 3 and deciding that you don't have to do any of the reading for a few weeks because you take good notes in class and your COOT leader's roommate told you the material from the reading isn't that important anyway. So, you spend September getting really good at FIFA 2013 and making fun of your roommate for spending so much time in the library. You end up trying to skim five weeks of reading in three nights, get a 27 on the first exam and make up some lame excuse about how the mid-term was totally unfair when you explain to your family why you are dropping the class right after October Break. Your school work is like the old Nike ads: Just Do It!
It is unbelievably easy to fall into a rut with respect to the way you socialize on weekends. Whether it is hanging around with the same small group of friends or attending the same parties (that take place in different places each weekend) or ordering pizza and watching Netflix - lots of students fall into social routines that become tiresome quickly. Try to get into the habit of checking out the various events that are happening on campus at any given time (lectures, plays, films, concerts, art openings, games, etc.) and make a point of doing one different thing every week. If you don't like it, don't do the same thing again. If you do, you will have found another option to keep your social life rich and interesting.
Okay, I'm mostly talking about vandalism and dorm damage here. I know it's hard to believe that the student body annually racks up somewhere in excess of $100,000 in damage and vandalism on campus, but that is the sad truth. What's worse is that in almost every instance multiple people know who is responsible for the damage but don't turn in the culprits. The result is that all students end up having to pay for the bad behavior of a few. It doesn't have to be that way. If you hold your peers accountable then only the culprits have to pay and, more importantly, there will be less damage because people will know that vandalism is not tolerated at Colby.
There will almost certainly be times during your Colby career when things don't go exactly as you would like. And, in some instances the difficulty or inconvenience you are experiencing may be in no way your fault. If your dorm room window gets stuck and won't open, or the email servers are down for a period of time, or you receive a bill for an overdue library book that you returned on time you should of course bring the matter to the attention of someone who can help you resolve the problem. But you should not do so by sending an angry email in all capital letters deriding the recipient as an incompetent idiot who is unworthy to breathe the air on Mayflower Hill. Nor should you leave a shrieking voicemail in which you threaten to have the person on the other end fired if the matter isn't resolved before you hang up. Mistakes happen. Let us know about them and we'll work with you to get them corrected.
Staying with the mistakes happen theme, one of the most unfortunate things that students do is to be less than truthful after something has gone awry. There is no situation that is made better by not telling the truth or by lying. Still, time and again students will proclaim their innocence despite the three eyewitnesses (including their roommate) who saw them shoot off the fire extinguisher, and the electronic door lock record that verifies they swiped into the building 30 seconds before it happened. Dumb happens. Dumber doesn't need to.
There are places where students are allowed to park and places where students are not allowed to park. If you park where you are supposed to park, then you won't have any problems. If you park where you are not supposed to park, then you will get tickets and you will have to pay them. There are designated faculty/staff parking areas because we live in a place where almost all employees of the College have to drive to get to work. There is no public transportation system and the area is spread out enough that most people live at least a few miles from campus (some live several miles from campus) so walking or cycling is not a viable option for most through the majority of the year. Students, on the other hand, live on campus so you can walk to the places you need to go on Mayflower Hill. Student parking lots may not be the closest places to park at any given moment, but try to understand why parking works the way it does here.
Put simply: Do make this your experience and live it out in ways that you will be proud of. Don't spend your time at Colby coasting, living out someone else's desires, or building a pile of regrets.